Fête des Vignerons, or the Winegrowers’ Festival, only comes around once in a generation; it is held five times a century and the last one was in 1999.
This year is the 12th edition of the jubilee, and it will be held in Vevey, a Swiss town on the shores of Lake Geneva. It is the only living Swiss tradition to be recognized by Unesco as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
When it began in 1797, it was a celebration of the winemakers’ and laborers’ efforts. They would parade through the streets with musicians until reaching their reward: a banquet laid out for them.
The Fête has evolved over the years (despite the large stretch of time between each one) but still concludes with a celebration, just like it did 222 years ago. The 2019 edition is expected to draw 400,000 spectators (the town only has a population of 20,000) and will run from July 18 to August 11.
The festivities play out over 23 days; no two days are quite the same and the show represents a year in the life of the vineyard, starting and finishing with the harvest. Actors, singers, dancers and performers (many of whom are from the town of Vevey and spend years practicing for the event) take to the stage to entertain.
During the festival you can expect Choeur de la Fête (500 choristers, 300 percussionists and 150 children’s voices), the Harmonie de la Fête (120 brass band musicians), the Big Band (16 jazz musicians), the Percussionists (40 percussionists), the Cors des Alpes (36 Alpine horns), the Petit Ensemble (20 musicians) and the Fifres et Tambours (36 musicians from Basel).
Whichever part of the festivities you choose, be sure to lay your head at the Hôtel Royal Savoy Lausanne. The fabled hotel has launched a charming experience called Vintage Lavaux to celebrate the festival and the area’s renowned Chasselas, Pinot Noir and Gamay wines.
Take a chauffeured car to one of the leading historic wineries in Lavaux for a presentation about the winery and its vineyards before enjoying a picnic lunch with the winemaker followed by a red wine and chocolate pairing. Délicieux!
Fête de Vignerons tickets from $350. Vintage Lavaux from $610 per person.
Images: Céline Michel